External Sourcing

If the game script itself is the lore hunter’s Bible, then external sources can be considered the Apocrypha. While they can never trump what is provided in the actual game, such outside resources can inject additional insight into analysis, sometimes even creating a shortcut for more oblique inferences. Characters don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does the game as a whole, for the people developing it have their own history contributing to their every creative decision. And fans have often pointed out similarities or even direct references to other creative works. These callbacks not only include past games developed by FromSoftware but also unrelated properties like Berserk, The Lord of the Rings, Saint Seiya, FightingFantasy, and various cultures’ mythologies.

But while knowing the developers’ influences can be useful for framing certain elements, those influences should not be substituted for actual narrative data. The nods to other creative works are just that: nods — many reflecting the developers’ love for self-aware meta-references. By following my main three pillars of analysis — philology, archaeology, and psychologyFromSoftware stories stemming from Hidetaka Miyazaki prove to stand on their own, like any tale of good quality. Researching these confirmed or proposed inspirations has shown me nothing to say otherwise. In fact, zooming in on these inspirations is more likely to distract than edify, sending fans on wild goose chases trying to see patterns where none might exist. Even when confirmed to exist, the references tend to only be skin-deep, aligning simply in aesthetic or the broadest of circumstances. To then apply additional information beyond the reference from the influence is simply backwards.

To use myself as an example, I used to lead my case for Jermiah being the exiled king of Izalith with connections to the Old Monk in Demon’s Souls. At the time, I took for granted that the boss was the queen’s exiled husband as I had been informed from casual online discourse, and the parallel illustrated how much the Xanthous King in Dark Souls was borrowing from the writer’s history. However, when I finally began investigating Demon’s Souls for myself, I learned that the source of this claim was bogus. Jeremiah is undoubtedly a meta-reference to the Old Monk, but not in that specific regard. I made an external source the starting point for my conclusion when the internal evidence stood on its own. And had the argument collapsed without the disinformation, it would still have been an assumption about a detail made because it confirmed my biases about the answer.

The fact of the matter is, if these games were not so esoteric in their presentation, such fans would not even consider looking so hard at outside resources. Theirs is a standard which would never be applied for a more conventional series, and so shouldn’t be used as a crutch for failing to properly engage with the internal evidence. Even the most derivative of authors are ultimately trying to weave their own tale, so we should respect their work on its own merit first and foremost. To avoid bloating analysis with references, I will mainly mention these kinds of external sources as secondary evidence for particularly relevant comparison or analogy, as well as explanations for relevant character and place names. I will also apply general real-world historical, societal, or religious knowledge to the setting when appropriate.

By contrast, formal interviews with FromSoftware staff, especially Miyazaki, are infinitely more valuable. While the more casual context makes the interviewees vulnerable to speaking imprecisely, the actual testimonies tend to provide reliable information; in many cases, the direct statements even serve as ample shortcuts for conclusions otherwise based on just circumstantial evidence. The additional insight likewise remains closer to the source of the core ideas behind. I will thus be employing them more frequently, and as primary evidence. Official comics, on the other hand, are little more than glorified fanfiction, with the writers themselves disclaiming the content as mere interpretations of the original work. They cannot be considered part of the canon, and so I will simply ignore them. In a similar vein, sequels have the potential to change or contextualize details presented in past titles, so I will only mention them when they make explicit what I independently derive as implicit in their predecessor.